Campaign Bullet Points For Kansas State-Wide Issues
Posted on April 28, 2016
Revised April 25, 2016
This is an opinionated compendium of positions that moderate to progressive candidates
for the Kansas Statehouse might want to consider taking. This piece is intended as a service to
neophyte candidates thinking about how to formulate and articulate their personal platform. It is
in the form of bullet points suitable for a campaign flier.
It may go without saying that a candidate would be ill-advised to actively take on a large number of these issues. Getting out in front on a small number of controversial issues is usually necessary in order to get noticed, but after a certain point each additional controversy you take on will drive away old supporters more than it attracts new supporters.
Instead, candidates should pick and choose a small number of issues that they care about, and which seem likely to be effective in their own district. Also, they should not hesitate to revise their position statement in the light of feedback they receive while campaigning. Candidates really do change their minds based on what they learn from their constituents, and it is no disgrace to admit it.
SAM BROWNBACK’S FAILED FISCAL AND DEVELOPMENT POLICIES
∙ Kansas has no reasonable alternative to taxing the income of small businesses in the same way we tax everyone else. Governor Brownback’s small business loophole brought zero new business into the state, it has devastated our ability to provide education and highways, it has destroyed our credit rating, it has caused an illegally unbalanced budget, and it has led to mortgaging or selling every Kansas asset Governor Brownback can lay his hands on.
∙ Governor Brownback’s refusal to expand Medicaid is costing us billions in federal dollars and driving rural hospitals out of business. The hospitals have made an expansion proposal that won’t cost Kansas taxpayers a red cent. We should accept it.
∙ Governor Brownback’s attacks on K-12 schools are slashing budgets, ramping up class sizes, forcing good teachers to flee the state, imposing unconstitutional and unfair funding formulas, and seizing control away from local school boards. We should return to the fully funded revenue sharing formulas that were previously held to be constitutional. We should restore due process rights for teachers. We should return the schools to local control.
LEGISLATIVE INTEGRITY AND INFLUENCE
∙ I pledge not to accept campaign funds from Charles and David Koch of Wichita, who were the leading funders of, and also beneficiaries from, Sam Brownback’s failed policies.
∙ I pledge not to join ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), which is a corporate-funded national organization set up by the Koch brothers and others to support coordinated rightwing policy initiatives in all of the states.
∙ I pledge to expose and oppose bills that were secretly drafted by ALEC.
∙ No bill should go to either floor of the Legislature until it has received a full and fair hearing in Committee with adequate notice given to the press and all relevant parties.
∙ The Party leader should not unilaterally remove committee chairs for opposing his wishes.
∙ Former legislators should not serve as lobbyists until at least two years have elapsed after legislative service.
∙ Legislators should not accept anything of value from lobbyists during the session.
∙ It should be illegal to pay for any political advertizing without filing a timely public report on sources and expenditures of the funds (which should be referenced in the advertising).
JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE AND SEPARATION OF POWERS
∙ I support retention of current Supreme Court Justices, who are under attack for declaring that Governor Brownback’s reductions and redirections of school finance were unconstitutional.
∙ I oppose Governor Brownback’s efforts to politicize and stack the courts by abolishing the merit system of appointment.
∙ Kansas has an incredibly good system of higher education, all out of proportion to the level of state support it currently receives. Financial stresses are making it hard or impossible for our universities to maintain that level of quality. If quality declines there will be a substantial drag on economic development.
∙ State tuition is becoming too high for half or more of our families to afford. We need a greatly expanded program of needs-based scholarships.
∙ Some savings could be achieved in our public universities by requiring them to cooperate and be more specialized in their undergraduate and graduate program offerings.
∙ Universities should be more closely coordinated with technical and community colleges.
PRIMARY-SECONDARY EDUCATION (STATE POLICY)
∙ We should move towards universal pre-K education programs.
∙ Kansas should assist breakfast programs and before school and after school daycare and nursing programs in all willing school districts.
∙ Time-on-task matters a lot. In the long run, the only assured way of improving student performance across the board is in moving towards longer class days, and especially year-around attendance.
∙ Small schools educate best. Very large schools are no cheaper than midsized schools and should be discouraged.
∙ Class sizes should be capped based on recommendations of research.
∙ State government should take on more responsibility for supporting and managing special education.
∙ Teachers matter a lot. They deserve respect, good wages, due process rights, and the right to be involved in education policy decisions.
PRIMARY-SECONDARY EDUCATION (STATE-FEDERAL POLICY)
∙ Kansas should push for major changes in the No Child Left Behind Act.
∙ For example, tests should focus on improvement, not level of achievement.
∙ Teaching-to-test with objective tests has terrible educational consequences. Tests of creativity are possible but expensive to administer. Tests should be used as part of education, not for evaluating teachers or schools.
∙ What is wrong with Common Cores Standards is their use in high-stakes testing and poorly designed curriculums.
∙ However nation-wide standards are needed. Accepting the Common Core standards to guide course content is the right thing to do.
∙ Kansas should reject federal funds for abstinence-only sex education, which wastes state money and student time and doesn’t work.
∙ Kansas has a very good system of public highways. The most important function of state highway programs is maintenance, not new construction.
∙ Most Kansas cities are underserved by public transportation. More state support is needed.
∙ Rural Kansas is severely disadvantaged by absence of long distance passenger transport. We should study a Kansas initiative for a possible system of rural taxis, buses, passenger rail, and/or air taxis.
∙ Major cities in Kansas should be connected with convenient passenger rail service.
JAILS AND SENTENCING
∙ For the first time in history we’re spending more on jails and prisons than on higher education. That’s got to change.
∙ Extreme punishment is a luxury we can no longer afford. The sole goal of the penal system should be to reduce crime at an affordable cost. That requires a well-judged mix of deterrence and rehabilitation.
∙ Most prisoners will eventually be released and are unprepared for normal life. A majority of them are rearrested. That’s got to change.
∙ Unfortunately, prisons are places where many criminals learn to perfect their trade. That’s got to change.
∙ Every prisoner should have programs to prepare for civilian life.
∙ It is in no one’s long-term interest to brutalize prisoners or provide inadequate medical treatment. Conjugal visits not only help prevent prison rape, but also provide an extremely powerful reward for controlling prisoners.
∙ Incarceration should be replaced whenever possible with electronic house arrest.
∙ Other than house arrest, nonviolent felons should not be incarcerated unless they violate major terms of parole or fail to work at restitution.
∙ Felons on probation should not be incarcerated sent to prison for violations of parole conditions unless convicted in a court of law.
∙ Large numbers of jail and prison beds are filled with the mentally ill. It is much cheaper in the long run to establish programs that identify the mentally ill and divert them to effective treatment.
∙ Similarly, it is cheaper to treat drug addicts than to jail them.
∙ Similarly, research shows that diversion to treatment options can save many juvenile offenders from a lifetime of crime and also save the taxpayers money.
∙ The death penalty is a costly and ineffective albatross that should be abolished.
∙ Privatized prisons waste taxpayer dollars and reward political insiders.
INVESTIGATION AND TRIAL
∙ According to Kansas authorities, the criminal justice system discriminates against minorities. That’s got to change, and not by concealing the truth.
∙ The police spend too little of their time investigating violent crime. That’s got to change.
∙ Each activity and each program in the criminal justice system should be evidence-based and subject to routine outside evaluation. Research shows it is possible to reduce taxpayer costs while also reducing crime.
∙ Research shows that body cameras greatly improve the quality and fairness of police-civilian interactions.
∙ There are far too many false convictions. Many of them could be prevented by filming all interrogations and by adopting modern procedures for witness ID of suspects.
∙ The so-called “war on drugs” is a horribly expensive failure. That’s got to change.
∙ Stationing police in schools is a bad idea. It costs money, tends to criminalize school discipline problems, and violates civil liberties.
∙ Taxes are the cost of citizenship. We don’t like them but we need them. We also need to keep them fair and reasonable.
∙ Lotteries and casinos are not and never can be important substitutes for tax revenues. The Kansas lottery currently raises less than half a percent of state and local revenues.
∙ Many, or even most, tax deductions and exemptions are weakly justified at best. In general it is economically much better (though politically much tougher) to expand the tax base by removing loopholes than to increase tax rates.
∙ Over the last two decades Kansas taxes have been largely shifted away from corporations They can be partly shifted back without harming economic development.
∙ Loopholes that don’t clearly support economic development should be removed from corporate income taxes.
∙ For example, all forms of corporate income should be required to be localized to particular states for purposes of state taxation.
∙ All economic development incentives should sunset after ten years. Rewards that are distant in time do not influence business location decisions.
∙ The stripper oil well exemption should be replaced by a deduction for costs of oil production.
∙ Kansas should provide programs and incentives for all forms of renewable energy, subject to effectiveness analysis.
∙ All incentives and preferences should be removed from all nonrenewable energy sources.
∙ Kansas should adopt a model high-energy-efficient building code and provide incentives for local governments to adopt it.
∙ Kansas should adopt full-disclosure laws on energy usage and energy costs for retail goo and buildings, where not covered by federal law.
∙ Utility companies should be required to invest in consumer energy conservation and net metering (i.e., charging for energy consumed less energy produced by the customer).
∙ Action is needed to expand the electric grid so it can support wind power.
∙ Action is needed to support community power to keep part of wind power profits in Kansas.
∙ Kansas economic development programs should be subjected to much tougher outside benefit-cost analysis, and abolished where not positively shown to work.
∙ Kansas should prioritize growing from within. Kansas should adopt a statewide system of enterprise facilitation. The most important barrier to local innovation is lack of risk capital. Kansas should supplement Small Business Administration startup loans. Kansas should consider other risk capital programs.
∙ Kansas needs a plan to accomplish universal broad band access.
∙ Kansas and Missouri should encourage cooperative economic development within Greater Kansas City.
∙ Kansas should enter into no-raiding and non-compete agreements with other states.
∙ Kansas should enforce no-raiding and non-compete rules between Kansas local governments.
∙ Economic development incentives are especially costly yet their outputs are especially uncertain. They should be used very sparingly.
∙ Investments in education are far more effective economic development tools than investments in incentives. Unlike incentives, the positive effects of education on economic development have been demonstrated over and over again by solid research. If we are increasing incentives while cutting back on education, something is very wrong.
∙ All incentives should be transparent. All recipients and amounts should be public records.
∙ Grants of incentives should be conditioned on binding performance goals.
∙ Kansas should adopt and enforce uniform and transparent clawbacks (i.e. recovery of public costs) for all incentives and subsidies where the recipient fails to meet goals.
∙ Incentives distant in time have been shown to have no effect on industrial location. All incentives should phase out after five years, reaching zero after ten years. Events ten years down the road have zero impact on today’s investment or industrial location.
INTERNET AND COMMUNICATIONS
∙ High speed broad band is an economic development necessity and a personal requirement for full participation in modern society. Kansas should take steps to ensure universal access to high speed broad band at fair and reasonable prices.
∙ Accomplishing that goal will require strong regulation of monopoly providers together with direct public provision in locations that are inadequately served by private providers.
∙ Free wireless access should be made available in public buildings and downtown areas.
∙ Communications providers should be regulated according to a “common carrier” model.
RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
∙ Strong rural development programs should be developed by state government.
∙ Program eligibility should be conditioned on consolidation, efficiency, cooperation, and planning reforms at the county and local level.
∙ Consolidation of rural schools would place great stress on many small towns. We need to develop systems that retain local schools while providing economies from larger-scale cooperation between USDs.
∙ Programs might include:
– selective siting of state operations
– selective highway development
– broadband subsidies
– passenger transportation subsidies
– medical residency subsidies
– risk capital subsidies
– rural tourism services
∙ Kansas workers should receive the federal minimum wage. It’s the right thing to do.
∙ Discrimination based on gender orientation violates fairness and the law of the land. It’s time to get over it.
∙ The Legislative Post Audit Committee should study the charge that Department of Children and Families discriminates against same-sex couples.
∙ Religious-based discrimination (gender or otherwise) by commercial enterprises is unjustified and usually illegal. State laws purporting to authorize it are a boondoggle for lawyers.
∙ The illusory fight over bathrooms can be settled by insisting on closed stalls in all bathrooms.
CONSUMER LAW AND SMALL CLAIMS
∙ Kansas should raise the small claims limit from $4,000 to $10,000.
∙ Consumer disputes should not be subjected to required arbitration unless it has been shown that the designated arbitrator sides with the consumer at least 40% of the time.
∙ Payday loan interest plus all fees should not exceed 35% per year. ??check current law
∙ Consumer installment loan and credit card interest plus all fees should not exceed 20% per year.
∙ Companies should have an affirmative obligation to help prevent, detect, and correct ID theft.
∙ Gift cards should not have fees or expiration dates.
∙ Credit card companies should file an annual report showing total interest and fees charged as a percentage of purchases for each type of account.
∙ Before a foreclosure is initiated as a result of balloon payments or variable interest rates, the lender should offer to refinance the loan.
∙ No foreclosure should occur until the lender produces the actual loan documents.
∙ We need a law on security of large personal data files. All security breaches should be reported to a state agency. There should be a bounty and safe haven for hackers who discover new security flaws and report them to authorities without doing any damage.
∙ Lawyer fees that take the major part of settlements should not be allowed. Exception: plaintiffs seeking simple justice may contract in advance to accept no part of the settlement.
∙ Some so-called “tort reform” has actually been a concerted effort to allow big business to profit from dangerous actions without providing adequate recourse for injured parties.
∙ Settlements should be high enough to compensate victims and high enough to also create a powerful incentive against negligence.
∙ Reforms that limit truly excessive attorney’s fees are legitimate and needed. However fees in winning cases must be high enough on average to cover the costs of losing cases as well–—or else attorneys will refuse to take any cases that are seriously contested by a deep-pockets tortfeasor.
∙ Substantial pain and suffering awards should be allowed, because pain is a real form of damage and has a real and measurable economic value–—as you can affirm by considering how much someone would actually have to pay you to undergo a given type of pain or suffering.
∙ If there are pain and suffering limitations, they should be removed in cases where the tort feasor resists a rapid resolution of the case.
∙ Workers are not being adequately compensated for injuries under worker’s compensation. We need to either make the system more fair to workers or else return to a tort model.
∙ Research has demolished the claim that high overall medical costs are significantly caused by lawsuits. Also, lawsuits have led to important innovations such as counting sponges in surgical procedures.
∙ At the same time, some medical specialists have suffered from very high malpractice insurance costs for other reasons. Insurance regulation or public insurance are the appropriate remedies for high malpractice insurance costs.
∙ On average, public and nonprofit employees are more motivated by opportunities to serve the public, and less motivated by material profit, than their private sector counterparts.
∙ However, treating employees with respect is essential to improving government effectiveness–—and adequate salaries, job security, and fair treatment are important signs of respect.
∙ The effectiveness of individual incentives in government service tends to be overrated, while work-group incentives are underrated.
∙ Wherever possible, government activities and services should be carried out by internally competing agencies, with appropriate positive incentives such as expansion opportunities being directed to the best performing groups.
∙ Transparency works. Whistleblower, open records, and open meetings protections should be expanded.
∙ A limited press shield should be enacted to protect the sources of leaks about scandals.
∙ Privatization always creates new opportunities for corruption. Research shows that privatization is more likely to reduce efficiency than increase it.
PROPERTY RIGHTS UNDER EMINENT DOMAIN
∙ Property condemnations for economic development are often motivated by private rezoning windfalls. To prevent this, compensation for condemnations should be evaluated at the anticipated zoning level (if higher than current market value).
∙ In order to recognize the special importance of owner-occupied dwellings, compensation for the a condemned owner-occupied structure and immediately adjacent noncommercial land should be evaluated at 110% of full market value, plus relocation costs.
∙ Atrazine is a poison and an endocrine-disruptor that ought to kept out of the water supply, but isn’t. Farmers who use atrazine should maintain uncultivated buffer belts around all water drainage channels.
∙ The Oglala Aquifer will be largely emptied in 20 to 40 years. Many town and cities in western Kansas will undergo severe stress or fail. To help cushion a transition to dry-and farming, water quotas should be reduced, should be bankable, and should be taxed when used.
∙ Fossil fuel drilling or injection that harms aquifers should be prohibited.
∙ We need a state program to assist local removal of lead water pipes.
∙ I support no-fault automobile insurance, with an exception for major pain and suffering. In all other cases, your own insurance company should pay your own costs, and expensive lawsuits between companies would be prohibited.
∙ I support home rule in land use and planning law.
Mixed state-federal issues
∙ Most abortions can be prevented by preventing unwanted pregnancies. Sceintific reaserch has found that the most effective way to reduce abortion is to provide free contraceptives to needy women and to provide honest sex education in the high schools.
∙ The best contraceptives are IUDs and other ??
∙ Abortion rights in the first two trimesters should not be burdened by special regulations that do not apply to other medical procedures. The same goes for abortion to save a woman’s life or health.
∙ Except in cases of rape or incest, abortion should be discouraged in the third trimester.
∙ However throwing women or doctors in jail is not the answer.
∙ The US has a right and a duty to control its borders.
∙ That can’t be done without reducing illegal hiring. Moreover the elimination of illegal hiring will eliminate most economically motivated but unauthorized immigration.
∙ We need to achieve better control over illegal hiring with less demagoguery and less bureaucracy and less harm to innocent employers and workers.
∙ Completely effective control can only be accomplished at the federal level.
∙ Employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants nearly always violate other worker’s rights. They can be strongly deterred by state action that aggressively supports worker’s rights.
∙ Providing incentives for illegal immigrants to testify against their employers is essential for successful enforcement of workers’ rights. Trading amnesty for testimony is same principle used in many other criminal prosecutions.
∙ Other punitive efforts at the state level will hurt innocent employers and hurt innocent children and damage local economies, especially in farming.
∙ I support the federal DREAM Act. Children raised in the U.S. through no fault of their own have grown up as Americans and need a path to citizenship. Similarly, I support in-state university tuition for all graduates of Kansas high schools.
HEALTH CARE INSURANCE
∙ Everyone should have their own doctor, at a cost each can afford.
∙ Everyone should have freedom to choose their own doctors.
∙ Politicians have an obligation to help make it happen.
∙ Other than politics, the biggest problem is cost.
∙ Insurance companies are a major cause of high costs. Health costs cannot be controlled without controlling or even eliminating medical insurance companies.
∙ Workers, consumers, and employers should support health insurance costs on a sliding scale.
∙ We can and should negotiate lower prices with drug companies.
∙ We can and should take steps to encourage more cost-effective medical practices. We should identify evidence-based best practices and create incentives to follow those practices.
∙ Obamacare accomplished some of these goals, but the job is not finished.
∙ Further steps towards all of these goals can be accomplished at the state level.
∙ Kansas should adopt a universal voting registration system, putting the burden on government to register all voters. Such a system not only reduces opportunities for fraud and voter suppression, but also increases turnout.
∙ Kansas should restore voting rights for all persons convicted of crimes.
∙ In any case, Kansas should adopt or maintain no impediments to registration or voting unless it is shown that the number of voter frauds prevented would exceed the number of valid voters discouraged from voting.
∙ Kansas should require a voter-verified paper trail on all votes.
ELECTORAL COLLEGE REFORM
∙ Currently, in the general election Presidential candidates of both major parties take Kansas for granted. No candidate campaigns in Kansas or responds to Kansas issues. The structure of electoral collage is the reason. Since a Republican majority is not in doubt, picking up additional voters in Kansas doesn’t help any candidate.
∙ The electoral college unequivocally violates modern notions of democratic fairness. It should be abolished.
∙ However, directly amending the constitution to do so is a practical impossibility. Any amendment can and will be blocked by a minority coalition of states that benefit from the status quo yet might contain a tiny share (as small as 4%) of the US population.
∙ Instead, Kansas should sign the National Popular Vote Compact.
∙ In other words, Kansas legally can and should pledge its electoral votes to support the popular Presidential winner–but this will become effective only when enough other states agree to do the same so that it can be made to stick.
∙ This kind of reform will create an incentive for national candidates to campaign in Kansas and respond to Kansas issues, because they will want to pick up some Kansas votes.
∙ This kind of reform will also create an incentive for each state to encourage voting (so its own voice will matter more) instead of putting impediments in the way of voting.
∙ Kansas should firmly resist the federal Real-ID law, which has no demonstrated benefits, imposes unfunded costs on the state, and creates civil liberties nightmares for innocent individuals.
∙ Kansas should resist the secret spying and databank or “fusion center” operations that federal agencies are quietly setting up jointly with Kansas and other states.